South Carolina man pleads guilty in 98′ East Hampton homicide case

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MIDDLESEX, Conn. (WTNH) — A South Carolina man has plead guilty to the strangulation death of an East Hampton woman whose body was found one day after reported missing in 1998.

Gerald Brian Tuttle, a 54-year-old, was arrested three years ago in South Carolina. Today, inside Middlesex Superior Court, Tuttle plead guilty to one count of manslaughter in the first-degree and one count of kidnapping in the second-degree in the death of Gertrude “Trudy” Ochankowski.

Ochankowski’s homicide went unsolved for nearly 15 years. She was reported missing on Jan. 11, 1998, when her car was found running in a parking lot on Main Street in East Hampton. Her body was found the following day in a stream in an area known as Engel’s Falls. An autopsy determined she had been strangled.

Tuttle was arrested in Dec. 2013 at his home in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, as a fugitive from justice and charged as a result of an investigation conducted by the East Hampton Police Department in conjunction with the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Middlesex and the Cold Case Unit in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

Tuttle pled guilty today pursuant to the Alford doctrine under which a defendant does not admit guilt, but agrees that the state has enough evidence to get a conviction. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 6, 2016, when he is expected to be ordered to serve 30 years in prison to be followed by five years probation.

The case was prosecuted by the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Middlesex and Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Tanaka of the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford and formerly the Cold Case Unit.

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